turned cherry wood bowl

Ambrosia Maple Bowl

There is an interesting insect called the ambrosia beetle. It burrows into trees, its favorite being silver maple. Being resourceful it carries its potential food supplies with it wherever it goes. Its preferred food is fungus—just like a lot of people fancy fungi. Shitake mushrooms, if you are from Japan, or truffles, if you are from Europe, fetch extremely high prices in the markets.

This beetle, although it bores through wood, does not like to eat the wood. On its body he carries two varieties of fungi. These begin to grow in the tunnel he has bored and also into the wood to produce an interesting variation of color, mostly dark browns. As the maple wood is light in color, it produces an interesting contrast. The fungus which grows in the burrow the Ambrosia beetle eats for his living. That which grows into the wood outside the burrow he leaves for your aesthetic enjoyment.

For this reason, maple wood from trees attacked by this beetle is called ambrosia maple. In times past the wood was considered ruined. Today it is treasured for it is ever so much more interesting than plain old silver maple. If you look closely you can see the little burrow in the wood in the discolored section.

If the beetle harms the tree it must be a very slow process. In harvesting maple from the woods, I never was aware it was infested until I cut into the tree. This urn shaped vessel is shown in its unfinished state and you can appreciate the visual interest caused by the infestation. Nature is truly remarkable.

This vessel was photographed before it was finished and the visual effect of the fungal discoloration of the wood stands out in high contrast to the normal color of the silver maple wood. Isn’t it fascinating how nature creates beauty at every turn?